Daughter remembers father who died while fishing on Catawba River

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A father is being remembered after his tragic death on the Catawba River earlier this week.

If there's any comfort in a moment when a daughter loses her father, Crystal Clyburn is working to find it.

[PAST COVERAGE: Body of missing boater found in Catawba River; third drowning in weeks]

"These past few days have been very unreal," Clyburn said. "I'm still trying to wake up from a dream."

On Wednesday, first responders in Gaston County rushed to the edge of the Armstrong Bridge after someone called 911 saying they spotted an abandoned boat in the Catawba River.

Channel 9 later learned Clyburn's father, Willie Perry, died after falling off his fishing boat.

"He was an avid fisherman, so that's something he could do all day, every day," Clyburn said. "I think he just loved the peace. It's peaceful when you go fishing."

(Willie Perry)

His daughter said he was diabetic and possibly suffered from a medical event.

He could swim, so he had to have passed out and fallen over," she said. "That's the only thing. But through all of this, what gives me the most peace is knowing that he left this side doing what he loved the most."

Clyburn said her father meant so many things to the people who loved him most.

[ALSO READ: Man rescued from secluded Lake Wylie cove after all-night search]

"A son, a brother, you know, a friend, a cousin," Clyburn said. "I can be selfish and I can say it's my dad, but when you think about all the other people that are affected, it's a lot. He's gonna be missed. He was a very major part of his family circle."

The North Carolina Wildlife Commission is leading the investigation into Perry's death.

Investigators haven't said what caused Perry to fall off his boat, but his autopsy should help answer that question.